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Spec Care Dentist. 2015 Sep;35(5):221-228. doi: 10.1111/scd.12115. Epub 2015 May 7.

They stole her teeth! An exploration of adults with developmental disability experiences with dental care.

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Cert Pediatric Dentistry, Private Practice, Alberta, Canada.
Cert. Pediatric Dentistry, Professor and Head of the Department of Oral Health Sciences at the Faculty of Dentistry, University of British Columbia.
Assistant Professor and Head of the MPH/Diploma in Dental Public Health Program at the Faculty of Dentistry, University of British Columbia.



The aim of this paper was to explore the experiences of adults with developmental disabilities (AWDD) in accessing and utilizing dental services in Vancouver, BC.


Participants were either self-advocates or parents/caregivers who discussed their experiences in five focus group discussions with 20 participants in total (age range 17-60 years, 2 males). Each focus group lasted on average 40 minutes. Transcripts were coded for thematic analysis; the codes were organized into themes and finally into domains.


Seven domains relating to the participants' experiences with dental care were identified, and included communication, trust, and respect as provided-based domains to the quality of the dental experience for AWDD and their parents, while financial issues, transitional services, and waiting times were system-based barriers to access to dental care for theses AWDD. Finally, what makes for a positive dental experience was shared in terms of acknowledging parent's role as advocates and making simple accommodations to see AWDD by the dental office.


Access to a care provider did not necessarily equate to satisfaction with quality of experience. Efforts have to focus on establishing communication and trust with AWDD patients as key to a positive dental experience. We encourage a global discussion on the need to better incorporate dental care for special needs individuals within dental school curricula.


access/barriers to care; developmentally disabled


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